After Angie’s Example

After Angie’s Example

my story

Angie was one of those girls who seemed to have it all. People enjoyed being around her. It wasn’t just because she was kind, it was that she exuded strength. But Angie got her strength the hard way.

On a warm summer evening, after all our exams were over and life seemed like it couldn’t be more perfect, Angie turned to me and started talking. “At these quiet times, I like to remind myself that life can change in a moment,” she said. Angie’s demeanour was calm, but I could tell by the way she fiddled with her hair that she was about to break the serenity I was feeling. Intently, I listened to her soft voice.

“One Saturday, I joined some friends on an evening out, and when an old friend invited me out for a night cap I agreed. I’d known him most of my life. He was a stand-up guy. You know the kind. The one even the teachers immediately warm to.” Angie sat very still for a moment and then she carried on. I think I knew it before she said it, but I waited and hoped I was wrong.

That night, Angie came home with something to hide.

“As he drove me home after everything happened that night my ‘friend’ didn’t even noticed me cringe as he bent forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek.” I watched the anguish on Angie’s face as her words painted a picture of her home-coming. She told me how she no longer felt safe as she closed the door to her apartment.

“I pulled off my red dress and flung it onto the floor right there in the hallway. I kicked off my crimson shoes, one by one. I had loved those shoes, but I knew I wouldn’t wear them again. I pulled of the scarlet scarf that I had thought was so trendy, woven into my hair at the beginning of the night.  My red, beaded necklace felt like it was choking me. I grabbed at it, and as it broke I felt satisfied as I heard the beads bounce on the floor. But when they lay still, they looked like droplets of blood.” While Angie stood in the scalding hot shower – scouring at her skin and double cleaning herself, berating herself, and wondering if she had been impregnated – she imagined that he slept contently.

 

.About Xanti

Xanti Bootcov was born in South Africa in the late ’60s. She enjoys travelling around the world, which is why she has lived in seven different countries. She believes in equality for all people. Xanti gave up on a single career path when it became necessary to choose between travel and career. After seeing the shadows and the light of abandonment and abuse, she adopted her two children. She has always been interested in understanding why people do what they do. This helped her when her experiences as an adoptive mother shaped her view on parenting. She’s been through earthquakes, a volcano erupting and a couple of fires. Currently, Xanti lives in Mauritius but continues to travel the world whenever possible. Visit her website www.xantibootcov.com or her Facebook page.

Angie and I sat in silence while I worked through what she had told me. She felt that she had become a cliché, a joke… a regret. She had gone out with a friend. She had no fear as the evening progressed. She had not worried that she would be unsafe.

But after that night, Angie had a secret she didn’t feel able to disclose. She didn’t think anyone would believe that she had said the word “no”. At quiet times, she would sometimes practice the word. No. NO. NO!

Angie couldn’t stop her own mind from blaming herself. She had willingly gone out, looking pretty. She’d put on some perfume and painted her lips. She smiled and laughed and enjoyed herself. She felt she was the accused, not him. As the months went by, Angie attempted to scrub her dirty shame away, and she played the night out again and again.

The entertaining evening out with friends had ended her innocence and left her with a cold reality she didn’t know how to process. She couldn’t understand why she had neither struggled nor screamed. In fact, she had played dead, her stiff body not moving at all. How could she believe she was not at fault? Her lack of compliance went unnoticed as he pulled himself on top of her. As he covered her mouth with his and held her down and as she shook her head – open eyed and tears flowing – he had ignored her small voice pleading to go home.

Until she told me her story, Angie had not fit the description that I held of someone who had “been through something”. Until then, I’d always loved horror movies, but after Angie I knew that no horror movie will ever be as scary to me as life can be.

She was still in one piece, but inside Angie had broken.

With the passing of time though, she was able to reframe her experience. Angie did what she could to cope, and when she was no longer able to look at herself in the mirror she went out looking for help. She was one of the lucky ones. She found a way to mend her shattered psyche and began to help others. That brought her strength back.

As a woman I often feel vulnerable. I am a small person and, while I can be strong of mind, I know that my size puts me at a physical disadvantage. But Angie’s courage stays with me every day. Like bones that mend, Angie became stronger. She was proof to me that when something unexpected takes us down a dark path, we don’t have to let it define who we are.

I am stronger for having known a woman like Angie. Her example stays with me, and when I am feeling torn down, it lifts me back up into my own resilience.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Unlikely Saviour

Unlikely Saviour

my story

It started
in an unlikely encounter
on the Durban beachfront
after he came back early
from one of his easy lays,
and suggested a walk
on the promenade.

The night sky
leaned in as
we spoke in that fraught
deeply subtexted way
of two people
igniting a fuse
between them.

Then – like in the movies –
the rain came

we ran for cover

under shelter
he hauled me
by his strong arms
like a net full of fish
into the boat of his chest
and he kissed me
his lips warm
our faces wet,
my heart thundering
like a stampede of wildebeest,
rupturing the line
between me and men forever,
marking me with
unsugared, unspiced
Desire.

.

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

He steered me out
to where it was dark and deep
and I could no longer see
where I’d come from,
and on that ocean,
I threw off
the anchor
that stretched all the way
to the gas chambers
or the destruction of the First Temple,
or whenever it is Jews decide
our special genocide
make us Slaves to Our Suffering.
No longer
bitch to my birthright;
I broke the sacred covenant of
to only touch circumcised cock.

The sex led to love
or something close to it.
Enough for him to tell me
to take a message back
like a dove with an olive branch
but not so olivey
‘If he ever hits you again
or so much as lays a finger on you,
I’ll beat the shit out of him.’

I rowed my way
out of my childhood,
on a foreskinned boat,
with my first love –
who betrayed me –
but who also saved me
in that unlikely
way of a rough tough
gentle soul
who stood like Moses
with the Egyptians
bearing down
and parted that sea
so I could walk clean through it
and into a woman
no-one would
ever hit again.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

my story

This is not the story I was planning to write.

But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.

It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no recollection of the rape but it happened. He knows it, and I know it and now so do you.

The following evening, after invasive tests and the collection of evidence at the hospital, I went to the police station to report the incident. The police woman berated me for having drunk an unsecured drink. She listened to my story and wrote it down in her words. This was my first, of many, misunderstood statements.

Anna, the friend who was with me that evening, claimed in her statement that I looked “fine” and was “acting normal” when I left the club with him. What she neglected to include in her account was that she was drunk when I had left the club. The police felt that our statements clashed, but Anna was reluctant to change hers or to give another. So I went down to the station with the hopes of bettering my first statement, only to be met with yet another illiterate police officer who wrote “shower” instead of “bath” and refused to change it.

During the weeks that followed, I tried to gather as much evidence as I could to build a case. Anna had photographed us at the club – but I was later told that the images would not hold up as an identifier of the rapist. There was also video footage which had been kept at the club. Only the police were allowed to collect it. But they never did.

Despite this, I remained hopeful, especially when the police said there was enough evidence to make an arrest. I knew where the perpetrator lived. He had used my cellular to call Uber so his address was on my phone. Right from the start, I urged the police to follow up with the Uber driver. Two months after the incident, they phoned me and asked if I could get in touch with the driver. Surely the police would have a direct number? Furthermore, so much time had passed it was unlikely he would even remember that night.

.

About SC

SC has been dabbling in creative writing since she was an awkward 16-year-old waxing lyrical about love. After years of teaching creative writing skills to teenagers, she decided to hone in on her own and completed an honours degree. She hopes to write a memoir in the not-too-distant future.

Then came the evening of the arrest. I was to drive, with an ex-police officer, and identify the suspect so they could arrest him. It felt like one of the police investigation shows I so enjoy watching, except on this episode I was the “victim”. We sat in the car and waited… and waited for the rape investigation unit to arrive. I tried to breathe into my fear… the fear of seeing the perpetrator, the fear of him seeing me.

Four police vehicles and eight officers descended on his residence. When the gate opened, my lungs closed and my right leg started shaking uncontrollably. I dug my hand into the passenger seat until it cramped. The investigating officer assigned to my case came over. He wanted me to get out of the car and face the suspect for an accurate identification. Impossible.

Then I saw him standing on the porch, with his distinctive blonde mop of hair, wearing green track pants. Before he got into the unmarked police vehicle in front of us, he casually lit a cigarette.

It was surreal. I was only a few feet away from the perpetrator and a few more feet away from where he had raped me.

The next day, I gave another statement, detailing his appearance. The investigating officer said, “You’re making this very difficult for us. You were supposed to get out of the car last night.”

At the advice of my therapist, I wrote my story from beginning to tenuous end. Was it detailed enough? I wondered. Accurate? Would I be able to defend it in court?

The perpetrator was kept in a holding cell overnight, and after he was released I met with the magistrate who advised that the “first report” needed to be taken. This report had to be given by a friend at work, Tumi, who was the first person to whom I had relayed the events. I urged her to return the call and go to the police station. I even offered to go with her. She did neither.

Anna was asked to see the magistrate too so that she could corroborate all versions of the story. She later told me she was waiting for the police to call her back. And they never did.

All of this needed to happen before the magistrate could decide whether to proceed with the case. A few weeks later, I got the call from the magistrate to say that the case had been dropped. There was not enough evidence. It felt like a double betrayal: the police and the legal system, and the two friends I had trusted the most.

This is not the story I wanted to write, but it is MY story. Mine.

The process of seeking justice, though harrowing, was also strangely healing. And while my case never got to court, I fought with all of my might. In the midst of deep-seated fear, I found my resilience. And of that, I am proud.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Warning Signs

Warning Signs

my story

For a supposedly smart girl, I accepted behaviour from men that I shouldn’t have. There has never been a single horrific incident, but rather countless events I’ve dismissed as ‘nothing much.’ They go back as far as my earliest memories. Even as a toddler, I used to think… men look at me funny. The toilets at preschool had glass walls. Whenever I needed to pee I would cross my legs until the male teacher was out of sight.

Just a few years later, I overheard a conversation at a tennis barbecue.

‘I’d like to look under there,’ I’d heard the man with a moustache say as he angled his head towards my seven-year old self. I’d seen him play tennis with Dad. My face turned warm. I tilted my head forward, pulling down on the gathered side of my frilly blue and purple skirt. He sniggered with his mate then sucked the froth off his can of Fosters beer.

During my commuting days I had an encounter with the serial train sleaze. He thigh wrestled me, pressing everything from his shoulder to his knee against my body. Adrenaline morphed my flesh into concrete, and my voice mustn’t have been working that day.

Things escalated when the father of one of my ex-boyfriends roared with laughter as he dropped his pants to his ankles and exposed his genitals to me. He’d cornered me in the office of his framing gallery. I’d broken up with his son. Did that make me fair game? All I heard was the muffled tick… tick… tick… of the wall clock. Everything slowed down and became blurry. I grabbed the knot on my scarf and tugged it free of my clammy neck.

‘Ah… er…’

He fumbled with his words as well as his zipper. I seized the opportunity and slithered through the gap between him and the door.

I’m confessing what I’ve never said out loud. People would have looked at me differently, wouldn’t they? All I wanted to do was move on and forget. If I ignored these things, they never happened, right?

.

About Lisa

Lisa Benson is a self-diagnosed recovering perfectionist who skipped motherhood but became a grandmother in her early forties. She currently leads a ‘double life,’ living part-time at her home in Newcastle and the rest of the time on a boat on Sydney Harbour. Her writing travels with her whether she is on land or water. Lisa is currently working on her memoir which reveals how her ritualistic past is worlds away from the spontaneous life she now lives. Lisa’s dream is to help as many people as possible, to discover their soul’s purpose and live the life they were destined to.

I had no control over what other people did, but the stakes became much higher when I buried the blaring warning signs in my relationships. By staying, I was accepting the domineering behaviour that was chipping away at my essence. Our homes don’t instantly become filthy. Dust falls one tiny piece at a time until you can drag your finger through the film. Unhappiness crept up on me like those individual specks of dust.

Before I knew it I was a frustrated version of myself. Living a lie. Playing small and bowing to the needs of yet another insecure man. I wanted to make it better. Make them better. I cared too much and for too long for those who didn’t care enough back. I was their rock, but where was mine?

It’s been hard to admit the extent of my mistreatment. I’ve been yelled at, threatened, put down, ignored, and verbally abused over and over, but it all seems frivolous when I try to put it into words. I’m sure it’s a common side effect after years of conditioning. Even now as I write this, I recognise my tendency to downplay the torturous behaviour, but I can’t deny the myriad of physical symptoms or the emotional trauma I experienced.

I was on the receiving end of rage that I’d only ever seen in the movies, but all the threats and punishments were a secret… just between us. The doors and windows were sealed tight, just like my mouth. I had become a prisoner in my own home. Not literally, but it was easier to stay inside than to justify every human interaction. I cried most days, which should have been another warning sign. By ‘settling,’ was I protecting myself from admitting another failure? Back then, I would have never called it abuse though. Neither would they. There was no proof and there were no visible bruises.

No matter how much we think we know about relationships by observing others, reading articles, or watching movies, we cannot judge or comprehend what we would or would not put up with. It’s different when you’re inside it.

As we grow and learn, we are building up our resilience. It’s the times we think are going to break us, our greatest moments of weakness, where we become strong. Strong enough to leave.

I’m finally free and I’ll never be manipulated into submission again. Not after seeing the view from the other side. So when does behaviour cross the unacceptable line? If I’ve learnt one thing from personal experience, it’s that we need to stop identifying abuse by the visibility of bruises.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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As an author and writing mentor, my days are spent writing stories and helping others to write theirs. But every writer I’ve ever worked with (myself included) throws themselves down this emotional garbage chute: why should I write my story? Who will care? What does it matter?

I Know What Stops You from Writing

    I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic And she said yes I asked her if it was okay to be short And she said it sure is I asked her if I could wear nail polish Or not wear nail polish And she said honey She calls me that sometimes She said you can...

Not Pretty Enough

I was never a pretty girl. Not for want of trying or wishing. But there it was. I longed to be someone other people refer to as ‘adorable’ but there was always too much of me for it not to sound ironic. My father put it straight very early on. ‘You will never be a model, my darling,’ he said as if it truly did not matter.

Sharon Can’t Tell You Her Story

Sharon Can’t Tell You Her Story

my story

Sharon and I clicked the first time we met. We slipped into an intense friendship with ease and it felt as if we’d known each other forever. Sharon was the kind of girl you didn’t forget after the first time you met her. She was funny, with the body of a cheer leader and perfectly chiseled features. She was smart too, and men seemed to hang onto every word she uttered. She was the girl who seemingly had it all.

She met Alberto, with his movie star looks, at the gym, which they visited twice a day, 365. Soon they were living together in a cottage on her parents’ farm and for years they were besotted.

Alberto was obsessed. With Sharon, the gym and his guns. Those closest to Sharon were concerned for her safety, and one by one her friends and colleagues began retreating. She just didn’t see what they did, despite discussions about how his flaunting his guns was not “normal”.

I would spend hours planning her escape. Eventually she plucked up the courage and told Alberto she wanted out. She found the strength to leave him as a new love interest was taking shape, with a Greek God, Pantelli, a 22-year-old concert promoter.

Sharon’s Mom – worried about a possible clash between Alberto and Sharon’s protective Dad – asked if Sharon could spend the weekend with me. My brother had gone away for a few days and I offered up his bedroom.

Alberto suspected Sharon was seeing someone and set her up. A showdown ensued at my house on Saturday afternoon, where both men turned on her and left as besties, only to see Pantelli return a short while later to beg forgiveness. Riddled with guilt, Alberto arrived at my house the next day and saw Sharon and Pantelli’s cars. He jumped my six-foot wall and approached my kitchen door at the very moment my helper, Mama Rebecca, unlocked the security gate to feed the dogs.

“Lisssssaaa, Alberto’s here,” Mama Rebecca blurted, rushing into my bedroom, wide-eyed. Alberto was right behind her.

“Hi, Albie, how are you?”  I prayed he wouldn’t ask me where Sharon was. As his eyes darted around my room, the walls were closing in on me.

In a trance, I turned my back on him and headed for the bathroom. Mama Rebecca followed me. With trembling hands, I locked the door. The windows were barricaded by security bars. We were trapped. Hearts pounding. Waiting.

Three deafening shots rang out. I whispered, “One for Sharon, one for Pantelli, one for Mike,” my friend in the spare room.

“We are next, Mama, we’ve got to get out. I must plead for our lives face to face rather than through a locked door.”

Mama pulled at me, begged me not to go.

.

About Lisa

Lisa Loeb was born in Cape Town, into a family of four brothers with a South African mom and German dad. Raised in a rural Afrikaans community, at age 18 she packed her life into her Mazda and moved to Johannesburg. She co-owns About Entertainment, representing some of South Africa’s leading entertainers. In 2009 Lisa graduated from UCT with a PGDip in Business Management specializing in Events. She is married to a special soul and is Mom to two glorious human and three fur kids. She loves writing, reading, travelling, massages, beach walks, heart-stopping sunsets, running, yoga, dancing, meditating, coffee and one-on-one time with a friend.

I broke free, unlocked the door and sneaked into the passage, expecting Alberto around every corner. There was only a deathly silence.

I crept into the spare room where Mike was frantically looking for his contact lenses, whilst lurching for the cupboard, the only hiding place within reach.

 I bolted back into the passage towards my brother’s room.

The door was ajar. Sharon was sprawled on the floor, murmuring, blood pumping from her neck.

“Oh my God,” I wailed, remembering Alberto. Where is he? I have to get away. Get help. I ran to my bedroom, backwards, forwards. Where were the keys for the security gate?

Mama found the keys and unlocked the security gate. My bare feet ached as I flew across the sharp edges of gravel, towards the street, the neighbor, the phone. I called the police, the ambulance and Sharon’s Mom, unsure if they understood through my sobs.

A crowd was gathering outside my gate as I ran back towards my house.

The police arrived first. Mama and Mike came out of their hiding places and the three of us were questioned in separate rooms after being told that Sharon and Pantelli were dead. Alberto was brain dead. Unbeknownst to me, he had shot himself and fallen behind the door in the bedroom.

When the bodies of Sharon and Pantelli had been taken to the morgue and the police finally left, I held Sharon’s silk shirt to my face, breathing in her smell, then quickly shoved it into my cupboard.

I called my therapist, weeping uncontrollably. “Alberto shot them both, and he himself is brain dead in the hospital.”

“I’m bringing you a tranquillizer,” he said as my brother walked in from his weekend away. My guilt engulfed me. I had not asked his permission to have Sharon stay in his bedroom.

I offered to swap rooms, but my bewildered brother declined. I paid for a new futon, carpet, curtains and had his room repainted, all the time wondering if any of these gestures would compensate for moving back into a room where the spirits of trauma lurked.

I spiraled into blackness. Some days I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Feeling closest to Sharon when at home, I talked to her constantly, begging for a sign that she was still around. I couldn’t accept that I would never hear her voice again.

A few weeks later she visited me in a dream. She told me “they” were helping her accept where she was. She was in a hospital with the young one and has been to visit “the other one” who was in a bad place. Her parting words were, “He put himself there.”

I started reading about life after death, forcing myself to keep going.

My therapy sessions increased to a few times a week.

I picked up on the tour that Sharon and I were working on with my friend Mike, believing that’s what she would have wanted. I looked for signs everywhere. I had to connect with Sharon. A whiff of her favorite “Samsara” perfume would jolt me back to thoughts of, ‘If only I’d tried harder to get her away from him’.

A few months later I packed up and moved to another city where I visited a psychic who knew nothing about me. He saw a love triangle, though I wasn’t one of the people in it.

“When they ask for your help you should refuse,” he said.

“It’s too late, they’re all dead,” I cried.

He explained that Sharon and I had a past life pact.

I had promised Sharon in a previous life to facilitate her paying back a karmic debt. I was shrouded in an inexplicable sense of peace as he spoke. A sense of profound knowing.

My hunger for healing was all consuming. I immersed myself in reading about Karma and past lives and I started meditating. I took eighteen months off work to dig deep into my pain and to make sense of the lesson that would remain with me always.

My second name is Sharon. Our bond is eternal.

Despite the passing years, every time I complete a document that requires my full name I am reminded of my beautiful friend, whose short life was so entwined with mine.

But through my pain came understanding. Our lives, the worlds and hope are all interconnected. By living life and being open to the signs that come from departed loved ones, I can find peace in the knowledge that they are all around us. Through remembering the past, I can more easily move into the future.  And by seeking to learn from tragedy, I contribute to my own well-being and to my journey to heal and find beauty amid the mire.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

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